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Latest COVID-19 booster rollout hits snags in Georgia

Many pharmacists say the price of the latest vaccine has skyrocketed.

ATLANTA — Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on the latest COVID-19 booster shots recommending the vaccine for everyone six months and older. However, there's some confusion about where you can get it and how much it could cost.

Days after the CDC approved the new booster, both Walgreens and CVS announced the vaccine was now available in their pharmacies nationwide.

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the COVID-19 vaccine has more than tripled in price for pharmacies costing between $100 - $200 a dose.

A spokesperson with the Georgia Department of Public Health says it plans to offer vaccines at all county health departments, but they could not confirm whether any of the locations had received the vaccine yet.

Given the limited supply, many smaller pharmacies say they are also in limbo. Jonathan Hamrick, a clinical pharmacist at Poole's Pharmacy in Marietta says they've been getting calls non-stop since the CDC approved the latest booster.

"We then saw an ever higher demand of when will you get the vaccine and so naturally once something has been approved there’s always a delay in the availability of the vaccine," said Hamrick.

Some who have been able to snag an appointment said that they were informed they should cancel their appointment or risk paying out of pocket for the booster due to some insurance providers not yet adding the vaccine to their system. 

A representative with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield confirmed that a small number of members did experience claim rejections due to timing issues and because pharmacies had access to the new COVID-19 vaccine early, adding that those claims were being re-processed and members will receive their vaccines at a $0 copay.

A CVS spokesperson said any cancellations would have been due to a lack of vaccines, releasing the following statement:

"We’re receiving updated COVID-19 vaccines on a rolling basis and the majority of our locations are able to honor scheduled appointments. However, due to delivery delays to select stores, some appointments may be rescheduled. We’ll continue to offer additional appointments at those locations as supply is received."

Walgreens representative said they are working to ensure anyone who wants a vaccine gets one:

"COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost to the public. The cost will either be covered by insurance or government assistance programs, such as the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. Walgreens remains focused on driving equitable and convenient access to life-saving vaccines. We encourage everyone to bring insurance information to their appointment if available but will not turn away those who’s insurance does not cover it. Walgreens is committed to ensuring everyone who is eligible and wants a vaccine receives one."

Most health providers will honor rejected claims for covered medications with members either re-processing the claim or being reimbursed for paying out of pocket. 

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